The Strange Case of the Rejuvenated Artist and Art

Everyone recognizes this portrait.  It is over 500 years old!  Leonardo Da Vinci painted it and it now hangs at the Louvre in Paris.  One of the unfortunate aspects of its age is that it’s slowly deteriorating.  The humidity, age, and the simple wear and tear, and storage are making this painting slowly disappearing. You can see in the image below that it’s in a special containment spot so that the painting can be preserved even more so that it doesn’t warp.  This painting is so famous and so well-known throughout the world, that if this painting were to ever disappear, the artworld would certainly consider this as a travesty and the world would consider this as though it lost something valuable.  To make this analogy closer, imagine your favorite song or movie, and for some reason, some company got rid of it.  All notions of sounds, images, and words from that favorite movie/song is completely gone.  You’d be devastated.  Well, that’s what would happen if we got rid of the Mona Lisa.  With this in mind, imagine this:

Suppose that we could bring Da Vinci back from the dead.  Suppose next that we take him to the Louvre and show him his own painting.  Now what if he looks at the painting and he says that he doesn’t like it anymore, and he wants to change it.  Or even more so, he wants to destroy it.

Now on the one hand, as I mentioned before, if we got rid of the Mona Lisa, it seems that the world would lose something.  On the other hand, when you create something, that thing is yours.  If I write a book, then that book is mine.  I can do with what I will with the book.  If I decide to publish, alter, or even destroy my writings, I have the right to do so.

So with all this, da Vinci wants to go to his painting and alter or even destroy it.  Here’s the question: Should we let him?

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
This entry was posted in Aesthetics, Culture, Paper Topic. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Strange Case of the Rejuvenated Artist and Art

  1. Killer J says:

    Hell no. That painting has transcended subjugation to ownership. Think about it. That painting is almost bigger than the creator of the painting. It may sound weird, but it would be my guess that more people would be able to identify and admire the Mona Lisa across the world than they would be able to identify Da Vinci himself.

    Mona Lisa>Da Vinci (this isn’t my opinion, as I think Da Vinci was a damn genius that did more impressive things than paint that picture), but it’s true. Mona owns Leonardo now, not the other way around.

  2. shaunmiller says:

    Killer J, I was really impressed with your answer that I had to think about it. I really liked your idea that the “painting has transcended subjugation to ownership.” In a way, this is how I look at the meaning of life. For me, the meaning of life comes down to doing something where you consider that activity greater than your own life. To put it another way, it’s where you use yourself as a means to further some other end. Socrates died for Philosophy, Bill Gates is dedicating his life to computers (and now to charities), and terrorists are killing themselves for some cause that they consider greater than themselves.

    I may have to write another post about this. . .

  3. Killer J says:

    Thanks for the compliment man. I’ll check out your post on the matter.

  4. shaunmiller says:

    Going back to this, I thought of another question: There are wonders of the world that we consider great art. Things like the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, and Versaille. However, these were built by either slaves or people of extremely poor conditions. They were obviously exploited. If you could go back in time to stop this exploitation, and give these people a better lifestyle, would you do so? Suppose that if you did, the world would lose the Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, and Versaille. I ask you, would you still do it?

  5. Killer J says:

    Yeah, I’d do it. Those landmarks/art are great, but if it meant people didn’t have to be exploited I’d say it’s worth it. We’d lose the Great Wall too, especially since mortar for the wall is often made of human!

  6. shaunmiller says:

    What about the idea that art is greater than the artist? I’d be hesitant to go back and change things.

  7. Killer J says:

    Yeah, I still hold to the idea art can be greater than the artist. Now, are you telling me art is also greater than the involuntary sacrifice of human life?
    Although, one could argue “any art’s creation via exploitation is indicative of the human condition, therefore, this is a manifestation of art itself.” In other words, exploitation used to create art is artful since it mimics reality.

  8. Killer J says:

    By the say, my last comment was art if I do say so myself. I used some big ass words!

  9. shaunmiller says:

    Hmm. . . well suppose we did this. Someone comes to me and says that we can make a stupendous art piece. It’ll be so glorious and so divine that no other art piece can match it. However, for this to happen, we have to sacrifice a lot of people, and even perhaps kill them. Would you allow it? My answer would be no. So then, why would I allow the pyramids to be built if I had a time machine? Immediately, I was thinking, “well, because the pyramids are already built so there’s nothing we can do to change that.” But of course, I have a time machine, so I can stop it. So why do I feel like allowing the pyramids to be built is morally ok, but for some new art project to be built with the sacrifice of people currently is not ok? I can’t think of an answer. The closest thing I can think of is the Doctrine of Double Effect, which is something that I don’t like, but I can’t think of any other explanation. Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate my position.

  10. Killer J says:

    Maybe you feel this way because it’s mentally easier to deal with a 2000 year old dead person’s sacrifice than some living guy standing right in front of you.

    It’s like, “He’s been dead for thousands of years and nobody misses him right now, but everybody would miss the Pyramids if they weren’t here.”

    BUT… If it were to happen right now, you would say, “Although that art piece would be awesome, I just can’t take this living guy’s life. He has his own hopes and dreams, and would leave behind a family.”

  11. shaunmiller says:

    Yeah, that’s true. Although the situation gets weirder with time travel because the 2000 year old dead person can all the sudden become alive just by going to another time. (Is that person even dead if time travel is possible? Man, that could be another post.)

  12. Pingback: Particular Interests of Mine | Shaun Miller's Ideas

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